McKenzie on Panthers’ path forward

The Florida Panthers haven’t met expectations in recent seasons, but they may be poised to bolster their lineup this summer.

Bob McKenzie had a Monday morning radio hit on Montreal’s TSN 690, and the Insider was asked for his perspective “on what’s gone on with the Panthers this season.”

“I thought they’d be better than they are,” said McKenzie, who then checked where the Panthers were in the standings and pointed out that a playoff berth didn’t seem too realistic of a possibility. “I thought they’d be better this year. I think a lot of people did.

“Now I’m kind of curious because they feel like they need better goaltending - fair enough. So the Bobrovsky rumors, that they’ll go after him in free agency, make all the sense in the world.

“The Panarin thing is interesting too because he might think fondly - even though the Panthers are not a contending team right now - although they still have a really good nucleus of young players, including Barkov and others, that leads you to believe that they could be a contending team in the not-too-distant future.

“But the idea of making a seismic move in free agency to get Panarin and Bobrovsky - and I don’t know if they’ll get them or not - but there certainly appears to be a desire to do that.

“How do you reconcile that with - and that’s why we’ve heard some trade rumors involving Huberdeau and MIke Hoffman, because they are a budget team - not so much a cap team. And if you’re going to go big game hunting in free agency for guys like Panarin and Bobrovsky, who between the two of them might be close to $20 million a year - you’re probably going to have to end up having to offloading salary. I don’t think that’ll necessarily happen between now and the trade deadline, although I did hear some more Mike Hoffman rumors over the weekend about the possibility of him being moved before the deadline.

“So we’ll see where all of that goes. But they feel like they need to shore up their goaltending in the big picture. They’ve still got a real good nucleus of young players. But, as I say, if they did get Panarin and Bobrovsky, how many of those young players have to go out the door to balance the books. I don’t know.

“I guess I felt like for each of the last few years… this time of year I’m always saying, ‘Geez, I thought the Panthers were going to turn the corner this year and they haven’t,’ so maybe I start to get a little cynical or skeptical and wonder when that is going to happen and how that’s going to happen.”

The Panthers sit 11 points behind the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins for the two Wild Card slots in the Eastern Conference, with two games in hand on each of those teams.